“Foster care” is becoming a more familiar word among many people nowadays, at least in my circles (though I am admittedly biased), and I’m so thankful for that. Adoption became a word many people now understand and can wrap their mind around, including all that goes along with it, and I think it paved the way for foster care to come up behind it in its wake. Churches seem to be rallying around foster families in addition to adoptive families, and trying to figure out how to help them.
The problem seems to be that sweet and kind people want to help, especially if they don’t feel a tug toward fostering themselves, but don’t really know how to do it or what to ask.
Well, if that’s you, it’s your lucky day because this here foster mama is about to enlighten you. You’re welcome.
Here are some things you can do/say/be for foster parents and foster children:
1) When in doubt, pizza. (Also just a good life motto.)
Bring those tired and weary humans some food. Think about it as if they just had a new baby biologically (no meal train required). Somehow getting meals together becomes infinitely harder when you suddenly have one or two or four extra kids running around, and not having to worry about it is more of a lifesaver than you know. Whether it’s a homemade meal or sending them pizza (a personal favorite to both do and receive), trust me, it’s appreciated. Don’t worry about being an imposition, just ask when to show up. They won’t say no.
2) Try to remember that foster children have different needs and behaviors than most biological children.
One of the most frustrating things to hear is something like “they’re just being 2 — terrible twos come with temper tantrums!” or “yeah, my four year old does that, just try this” or “just tell them no.” Y’all, trust us when we say, “no, this is not ‘normal’ temper tantrums” or “this is different.” Trauma has a big impact on our kiddos, whether it’s past abuse or simply the act of being pulled from everything they know and put into a house with strangers. Sometimes we have to handle situations a little differently. Sometimes we have to say “yes” when you may normally say “no.” (i.e. snack 10 min before dinner or listening to “Let It Go” for the 80th time.) Sometimes we have to bail on dinner out halfway through because #feelings. We know you’re trying to relate, but often it’s better just to say “wow, that’s hard.” So we can go “YES. YES IT IS.” and maybe you give us a donut or something.
3) Hang out with us.
Sometimes (read: all the time) a pair of extra hands can be super helpful, not to mention give us social interaction when we suddenly go from 0 to 2 kids and realize we have no social lives. We (I) promise to try to invite you to things if you promise to invite yourself, too. :) Come to the park with us or eat with us. We don’t bite. (Most of us.) Promise.
P.S. Come over and drink coffee and chat with me after the kids go to sleep because I miss you but for some reason kids require supervision?? I mean honestly. So needy.
4) Offer to babysit.
This may be an obvious one, but it really does help to know who genuinely wouldn’t mind if we asked them to wrangle our hoodlums for a couple hours. It’s easier to trust friends with our new little ones than a babysitter from a list. Nothing against babysitters from a list, but you know. Friends get it.
SIDEBAR: I was recently wiped out by a gross stomach bug that had me in turmoil both physically and emotionally as I worried about how to take care of our kids when I just needed someone to take care of me, especially since Craig was scheduled to work at the Peach Truck that day. I sent out an SOS text to a handful of friends at 5:30 in the morning and within a couple hours two friends were basically like, “I’m on my way.” WHAT. I still can’t get over it and was not able to properly act appreciative in the middle of the yuck (let’s not even talk about the state they saw me in) but I am BEYOND thankful I have a village I can count on to help me. They took my kids to chick fil a and the park and just drove around with them sleeping in the car so I could get some peace and rest without “MOMMYYYYYY!” and pulling Baby P away from the TV cords every five seconds.
5) Take an interest in our kids just as you would our bio kids.
Nothing makes me happier than people genuinely taking an interest in our kiddos and interacting with them. It’s so sweet to see people love on them and enjoy seeing photos of them (or at least humoring me because I can’t post their faces on Instagram and it’s HARD, guys) and ask how they’re doing or say “this made me think of dubs.”
Again, maybe obvious, but necessary. Pray for the good of our kids, whatever that may be. Pray for the Lord to work in their little lives. Pray for us as we walk through this ridiculousness. Pray for court dates and decisions DCS makes and decisions the bio family makes. Pray with us. Let us know you’re praying. Ask us what to pray for. It’s so encouraging to know people are in it with us.
7) Ask what we need specifically and see if you can track it down in a hand-me-down sort of way.
I wouldn’t normally just say “give us stuff,” but, well…give us stuff. I just mean, we’ve had so many people ask us what we need and then either volunteer something they have that we can borrow indefinitely or just have that they’re done using, or find one for us from someone else who doesn’t need it anymore. It has helped a TON. I don’t think we bought 90 percent of the baby gear we have. A lot of times people are just happy to get rid of the stuff and we are beyond thankful to have it! It doesn’t have to be the newest or even have all the pieces (you know, as long as it’s structurally sound). But things like cribs and exersaucers and carseats and shoes add up, so we’re happy to take whatever you’re willing to give! Just ask if we need it, first. :)
8) When REALLY in doubt, gift cards.
The aforementioned “stuff” we need also requires cash money, and DCS payments don’t start coming for about a month after you first get the kids. Even then, you’re often playing catch-up. Gift cards to target or zoo passes or restaurants are a huge help!
Those are just a few things I can think of, but I’m sure there are more that others in different situations have experienced. If you’re a foster parent or have been involved with foster care, feel free to comment below with your thoughts!